Supporters of battlefield near Shepherdstown continue fight to save site

July 18, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- An effort to save a Civil War battlefield near Shepherdstown, W.Va., is still alive, the president of a group heading the effort said Thursday.

Some Jefferson County residents began discussing the idea of establishing a park to save the battlefield off Trough Road east of Shepherdstown following a controversial proposal to build 152 homes on 122 acres.

Far Away Farm LLC's proposal to build the homes generated opposition from several residents and preservation groups who say the site was part of the Battle of Shepherdstown.

After winding through a long county regulatory process, members of the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Appeals turned down a conditional use permit for the development, saying it was not compatible with the area where it was going to be built.


The developers appealed the decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which in April reversed the zoning board of appeals decision, said Ed Dunleavy, president of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, the organization that has been trying to save the battlefield.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled the local zoning board of appeals did not have the authority to deny the permit for the development and directed the "Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission" to issue the permit, according to a news release from the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Web site.

Dunleavy took issue Thursday with parts of the ruling, including that there is no such county agency known as the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Dunleavy said his group along with their attorney, Linda Gutsell, plan to appeal the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Jefferson County Commission set aside $100,000 to help acquire the battlefield, and Commissioner Dale Manuel on Thursday made an unsuccessful attempt to instead use the money for county government employee salaries.

Manuel made a motion to use the money for employee pay after saying that it is unlikely there would be any change in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals decision at the U.S. Supreme Court level.

Manuel's motion failed.

Commissioner Jim Surkamp said there is still a "very real possibility" that the Shepherdstown battlefield site can be preserved.

Commission President Frances Morgan said she did not believe the time was right to shift the $100,000.

"It's still undecided, no matter what Dale Manuel thinks," Dunleavy said Thursday.

Members of Dunleavy's organization have been raising money to preserve the battlefield land. The asking price for the property at one time was $3.6 million.

Lawyers for Far Away Farms LLC, the developers of the housing project, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

The battle fought in Shepherdstown on Sept. 19 and 20, 1862, brought to an end the Army of Northern Virginia's Maryland campaign and was a significant factor in Gen. Robert E. Lee's decision to retreat deeper into the Shenandoah Valley, officials said.

There were various northern and southern troop movements in the Trough Road area after Lee pulled his army back across the Potomac River and on Sept. 20, the two sides clashed in open fields around the Far Away Farm property, Dunleavy has said.

About 130 soldiers died, experts say.

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